Seance on a Summer’s Night follows theater critic Artemus who is summoned by his Aunt Halcyone to come to the Green Lantern Inn, her home in California. When Artie arrives, he learns the reason for the summons: Aunt Halcyone is having ghost problems and believes that her house is haunted. In fact, the ghosts have frightened off all the guests, and because of it, the inn is beginning to fall into disrepair. Halcyone believes it’s her late husband Ogden, who was killed in a car crash the year before, who is haunting the inn.
Now Artie is a skeptic and does not believe in ghosts; yet right after his arrival, he notices strange happenings such as footsteps walking on the floor above him at night. Ogden’s distraught sister Liana, who spends her days alone in her room reading Tarot cards, insists on hosting regular seances with the aid of a local psychic medium/spiritualist named Roma Loveridge to communicate with her brother. Artie reluctantly joins in, and as it turns out, the seances are quite creepy; yet Artie isn’t sure whether they’re real or a hoax.
Though everyone else in the house believes the place is haunted, Artie isn’t buying it and is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, especially once the so-called ghost threatens his Aunt. But he is certain that it is the living and not the dead who is behind the strange occurrences. Though because of the accusations by the ghost, Artie can help but wonder whether his staunch Aunt did have something to do with his uncle’s death after all.
So I’m a massive fan of the haunted house trope, and this one did not disappoint. It had all of the classic elements of a gothic ghost story: a psychic medium, creepy and hostile housekeepers, a mysterious (and hunky!) gardener, dim lighting, strange noises, an enormous old house, secret passages, possible murder and of course, ghostly apparitions.
What’s funny about this story, is that it had an old-time gothic feel to it, though it is a modern-day story. I kept forgetting that it takes place in recent times and not during the 1920s or 1930s, and I found the modern references a tad jarring in places. That being said, because of the descriptions and dialog, this story might have worked better were it set in an earlier time period.
I really enjoyed the mystery and loved journeying along with this oddball set of characters as the pieces of the puzzle slowly fit into place. I also loved all the clues peppered throughout the story that made figuring out the mystery all the more fun.
Josh Lanyon is known for writing M/M romance novels, but as is typical with most of her books, the romance is secondary to the mystery, and that certainly is the case here. The romance definitely takes a back seat to the ghost story plot so if you’re looking for a steamy gay romance, you won’t find that here. What you will find, however, is a fun cozy mystery featuring a witty and sarcastic protagonist, a zany cast of well-thought-out secondary characters with plenty of secrets and plenty of flirting between the two male leads. There were also several laugh-out-loud scenes as well, which added to the light-heartedness/coziness of the story.
I’ve read quite a few Josh Lanyon novels, and this one did not disappoint. All in all, Seance on a Summer’s Night is a smart and original cozy mystery/gay romance story with a rapidly moving plot, irresistible characters and a good number of twists that kept me engaged throughout.
A huge thank you to NetGalley and to Josh Lanyon for providing me with a review copy of this book.